Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant in Denmark

In order to promote the education of researchers and strengthen internationalisation, Independent Research Fund Denmark offers the Sapere Aude (meaning "dare to know") instrument. The objective of the initiative is to develop the qualifications and competencies of the best research talents, both nationally and internationally. Sapere Aude is aimed at Danish as well as non-Danish researchers.

Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant is aimed at providing excellent younger researchers, i.e. researchers who have carried out top class research in their field, with the opportunity to develop and strengthen their research ideas. The instrument also aims at promoting the mobility internationally as well as nationally among research environments, and thereby to strengthen networks and careers. Starting Grants are targeted at top researchers who intend to gather a group of researchers and/or research students, to carry out a research project at a high, international level. Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant also strengthens the possibility for excellent younger researchers to return to a Danish research institution after a research stay abroad.

IRFD expects that a Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant prepares the grant recipient to apply for an ERC Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant or Advanced Grant, or a similar international programme.

There is expected to be approx. 32 grants in 2019.

Applicant requirements

Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant is aimed at younger, very talented researchers, who at the time of the application deadline and within the last eight years have obtained their PhD or achieved equivalent qualifications (e.g. a positive assistant professorship evaluation "adjunktbedømmelse"), and who have demonstrated ability to carry out original research at a high, international level. The date on which you were awarded the degree of PhD, as stated on the PhD diploma must be used on the application form in e-grant. Previous management experience and mobility will be counted positively in the assessment of your application.

Application requirements

You can apply for a Sapere Aude: DFF–Starting Grant for of up to 4 years’ duration and a maximum amount of DKK 4.3 million, excluding overhead. In connection with your application, the fund considers it important that you have made plans for participating in international research activities, where relevant. Please describe the international activities planned in your application. It may be in the form of research stays abroad, collaboration with foreign research groups, hosting or participating in international conferences, invitation to foreign visiting researchers, etc.

The applicant can apply for funding for PhD and post-doctoral scholarships, if they have a clear independent function within, and form an integral part of, the research project. Post-doctoral candidates must have obtained their PhD or achieved equivalent qualifications e.g. a positive assistant professorship evaluation ("adjunktbedømmelse") within the last four years at the time of the application deadline. When applying for research funding for PhD scholarships, there must be a sufficiently balanced relationship between the contribution of senior researchers and PhD scholars to the project, so that all registered participants have a concrete role in the project work.

An account for the proposed recruitment process must be provided if the application includes requests for funding for unnamed PhD students and post-doctoral participants.

The project description must not exceed 7 A4 pages (including figures, tables, etc.), excluding references/bibliography. Please be aware that the appendices overview states which which appendices must be attached, and which appendices may be attached.

IRFD assessment and general assessment criteria

In every case, IRFD will assess an application based on whether the project in question benefits Danish research.

In the evaluation of the application, IRFD will take the criteria below into account, of which the project’s quality and the applicant’s qualifications are the two most significant assessment criteria.

IRFD emphasises as part of the evaluation, that the individual criteria should be met to the greatest extent possible. For the individual councils, there will always be a specific overall evaluation, where individual criteria can be met to a greater or lesser extent. Thus, not all criteria will be relevant to all applications. Because of competition between applications, it is not a given that meeting the criteria will result in a grant.

For instruments in this call, IRFD is using the following criteria:

Achieving the objective of the instrument:

Are the described objectives of the instrument sufficiently met?

Scientific quality:

  • Does the project description document that the project contains potentialfor scientific progress, innovation and originality (theoretical, methodicaland empirical)?
  • Does it display innovative research as opposed to expanding on alreadyongoing research?
  • Does the project description document that the project contributes tointernationalisation of Danish research?
  • Does the project description contain:
    • a clear and defined research question and objective?
    • a description of state of the art and/or the scientific challenges withinthe project’s research area, and the project’s potential related contribution?
    • consistent and suitable hypotheses?
    • an account of the theoretical and/or methodical foundation, includingan argumentation for the relevance of proposed activities in relation to this foundation?
  • If relevant to the project: Is there an argument for the correlationbetween the project’s hypothesis, theory and method?
  • If relevant to the project: Is there a sufficient description of the project’sempirical material or data foundation, including any pilot projects and/orany preliminary data?
  • If relevant: Is there sufficient synergy between the individual parts of theproject?
  • For applications to DFF | Technical and Production Sciences, a further criterion is particularly applicable: Is the project motivated by a desire to solve a specific problem or has the project a clear application perspective?

Applicant’s qualifications:

  • Has the applicant documented
    • Scientific qualifications to an extent that is necessary for the project’s completion?
    • Experience of scientific production within the project area to an extent that is necessary for the project’s completion?
    • Qualifications as a research leader to an extent that is necessary for the project’s completion?
  • Have the other central project participants documented scientific qualifications to an extent that is necessary for the project’s completion?
  • Are relevant local and international researchers contributing, and if relevant, is there sufficient contribution from public institutions or business partners?
  • Is there a strategy for the organisation and management of the project, including an account of the division of labour between the researchers involved?
  • Are potential PhD students or post-doctoral candidates an integral part of the project, and have a clear function in it?


  • Have sufficient resources been allocated to the project, including the research framework, personnel, and access to necessary facilities and equipment?
  • Has a realistic work- and time-frame been presented for the project, which also takes the recruitment of any unnamed participants into account, as well as disseminating project results?
  • Does the project description account for the project’s milestones and success criteria, and are these realistic?
  • Is there proportionality between the project’s costs and the expected scientific output?
  • Is there proportionality between the proposed activities and the proposed budget? Does this include a good correlation between what the requested funding will finance, how the funding will be used, as well as which tasks and people will be financed?
  • Are potential ethical aspects satisfactorily highlighted where relevant?
  • Publishing and dissemination of results:
  • Are the collective considerations for publishing/disseminating/patenting of the project’s results described in a satisfactory manner?
  • If relevant: Have the likelihood and plans for patents in the proposed project been accounted for?


  • Do the activities benefit Danish research?
  • Does the project/activity include education of researchers in a relevant manner?
  • Does the project/activity contribute to improving researcher mobility nationally/internationally and – if relevant – between research institutions/companies?
Application date
Up to 4 years
Social sciences